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Any Wildlife enthusiast must visit the Gir National Park at least once,  for it is the only place were Asiatic Lions are found. On second leg of our visit to Gujrat in December 2014 we visited Gir. We drove from Patdi Village at the fringes of Little Rann of Kutch to Gir a distance of about 314 kms. It took us abput 7 hours to reach Gir. We were booked at Saavaj Resort. Gir has many hotels and resorts to cater for all kind of budget.

The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat, India. Established in 1965, with a total area of 1412 sq kms, the park is located 65 km to the south-east of Junagadh. It is the sole home of the Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica). The forest area of Gir and its lions were declared as “protected” in the early 1900s by the Nawab of the princely state of Junagadh. This initiative assisted in the conservation of the lions whose population had plummeted to only 15 through slaughter for trophy hunting.  Gir forest the asiatic lion’s habitat is dry scrub land and open deciduous forest. These lions were once found across northern Africa, south west Asia and northern Greece. Now there are only around 411 left in the wild and all of them are in or around the Gir Forest National Park.

A cross section of the forest

A lion in its natural habitat at Gir National Park.

To visit the Park you need to obtain permit from Gujrat Forest Department office at the Gir National Park. It is advisable to book the permit online to avoid disappointment. Permits can be obtained by logging to their website www.girlion.in . The safaris are controlled and can be availed of in the morning and evening sessions. We took the 9 am Safari on 15th December 2014. unfortunately during this safari we were not lucky enough to spot the king of the jungle but had to remain satisfied by siting few common birds and mammals. Siting the Indian Scops Owl made are morning.

Indian Scops Owl

A rose ringed parrot having a feast

A male spotted deer

A Shikra staring at us

A Blackbuck looking at us

The afternoon safari to Devalia, a segregated portion of the Gir forest  and the next morning safari were more eventful wherein we sighted many predators and the king of the jungle too. The lions do not view a human as a threat and hence it is possible to observe them from close range. As we commenced our evening safari, we came across two lazy lions.

As we stopped to observe them they made some lazy movements…

.not the least concerned of our presence…..

We came across these spotted owls as we moved ahead…

As we probed further, we came across few foxes scavenging for food…

…and as we were midway our safari, we noticed some movement and the guide apprised us that there was a lioness with her cubs in the scrubs. Observe the picture below and sight them for yourselves…

 

As we stopped to observe them, the elder cubs inqusitevely moved towards us….

as we continued, we came across langurs, blackbucks, bluebull, wild boars, chitals, a lazy lion and more…..

Oriental Thick Knee

…Vulture…

During our visit to Gir we stayed at Saavaj resort which we found to be neatly laid out. The accomodation was of independent cottage type and well furnished with modern amenities. The resort also has a swimming pool….

..the bill of fare for each meal was delicious and served in their aesthetically done up dining hall..

The resort also organises the traditional folk dance of Hapsi (negro) people every evening for its guests at the resort.

Habshi or negro are the words used (not pejoratively) by the locals for Siddis- the people of African origin, sprinkled in Junagadh district of Gujarat. Dark skin, curlicues of hair, snub nose and thick lips, the Siddis are unmistakably African. Yet they are as much Gujarati as the next fellow. They speaks Gujarati and broken Hindi with the local accent and share the same mannerism and general demeanor. “ They say our ancestors were brought here as slaves from Africa more than 500 years ago”.

We also visited Somnath Temple which is about 43 kms to the south west of Sasan Gir.

We ponderd over our visit as the sunset at Gir.

Next morning (17 December 2014) we were on our way to Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary, more about it in my next blog…